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Ixnay on the Egetablesvay

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Janet Ridler has given a new twist to the old saw that children should be seen and not heard: She thinks, in some cases, that children should hear but not understand.

Ms. Ridler, the director of the Columbia Heights Child Care Center near Minneapolis, is encouraging her staff and her charges' parents to master the venerable language of Pig Latin, on the theory that "chil-dren don't need to know everything."

Pig Latin, or "Igpay Atinlay," is the perfect way for adults to talk about small children while they are in earshot without piquing the youngsters' curiosity, Ms. Ridler explained. The novel idea came to her after several anxious parents told her "there were things they wanted to say to me, and the kids were hang-ing around all the time."

Such conversations often take place in hurried moments when the parents of her 44 day-care charges, ages 2 to 4, are dropping them off or picking them up at the center, Ms. Ridler said. If her program works, she added, a worried parent can say slyly, "Ehay oesn'tday ikelay otay eatay nyayingthay reengay," instead of moaning, "He doesn't like to eat anything green."

Talking about a nearby child in a language he or she can understand is not only rude but also dangerous, Ms. Ridler contends, because it gives the child a keen sense of the power he or she wields over hapless adults.

"The kids think: 'Aha! I got 'em!"' she said. "With little ones, you shouldn't reinforce the bad things they do."

Ms. Ridler, 67, who suspects she is "about as fluent as it gets" in Pig Latin, admits that the code is only an advantage when used with children up to age 4.

After that, she noted, "They catch on and know everything, because by then they know everything anyway."

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